I had always wanted to travel solo. I’d done plenty of trips with family and friends and figured this was the logical next step. This past August, I took my first solo trip, spending 4 weeks on my own and 2 weeks with friends that live in Europe. Why did I do it? Well, partly to prove that I could, and partly because I like to see how I deal with situations that toss me so far out of my comfort zone that I can no longer see it (the zone, that is). I’m a masochist like that.
And so dear readers, I share with you, my secrets. Also known as five ways to make friends while traveling solo.
1. Free walking tours:
These are everywhere, especially in Europe. They’re also a magnet for both backpackers (most of whom want to make friends) and for solo travelers (ditto). Every time I went on one, I made a new friend or three, all of whom were my travel companions for the day. Easy peasy. My favorite is Sandeman’s, but there are plenty of companies that do them.
2. Online communities/events:
Apparently, there are a ton of online groups and events that connect you with other travelers and help you make friends while traveling. Silly me didn’t discover any of these until I returned to Los Angeles, but better believe I’ll be using these on all of my upcoming trips. As a female traveler, I love Girls Love Travel, a Facebook group. With tens of thousands of members, it’s easy to find someone to hang out with in virtually any country. There’s also a Facebook group called Men Who Travel, which I’m sure is equally cool. You can also find events on Meetup or on Couchsurfing. Did you know that Couchsurfing has events? I didn’t either. You’re welcome.
3. Travel apps:
Again, this is another resource that I was dumb enough not to research. But they exist, and members are active. Outbound App, Backpackr, and Wandermates are a few examples. Each app is slightly different, but they all help you connect with other travelers. Pretty cool, huh?
This suggestion really only works if you have some extra time on your trip, or if you’re traveling for an extended period of time. But, if you want to volunteer in exchange for housing and new friends, the experience is guaranteed to be unforgettable. WWOOF, HelpX, and Worldpackers are some good resources to start. There are also country-specific options too! I volunteered as an English speaker at Pueblo Ingles.
Yes, ridesharing is exactly what it sounds like: a euphemism for hitchhiking. But before you dismiss it, hear me out. It doesn’t have to be a creepy thumb-out-on-the-side-of-the-road experience. Instead, think of it as catching a ride with a friend going in your direction. The only service I’ve ever used is Blablacar, and I never felt unsafe. In fact, I ended up having dinner with the couple that drove me. Essentially, drivers post where they’re going, and you pay online and join in on their ride if it works with your schedule. All the drivers have reviews, so you can thoroughly vet them and make sure nobody will kidnap you. Ridesharing is a fast growing market in Europe, and much more fun and economical than a bus or train ride.
So there you have it. Five great ways to make friends while traveling. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with solo traveling for the sake of being alone, but I often find that spontaneous encounters oftentimes make travel that much more memorable.